DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Mississippi wants more doctors. So much so, the governor is putting up $10 million to get them.
The state has the fewest doctors in the country. Even larger counties, like DeSoto, have a need for doctors.
Mississippi has 159 doctors for every 100,000 people. Medical professionals blame the shortage on two things: One, the state has fewer doctors to start with; and two, Mississippi isn't replacing the ones who retire.
"We have been in a physician shortage in this state forever," The shortage is no shock to Baptist DeSoto CEO James Huffman. But he says Mississippians may be surprised to learn how widespread it is.
"A very strong community like DeSoto County and Southaven is underserved in primary care as much as some of rural communities are," he tells abc24.com.
The greatest need is for primary care doctors.
"Those family practitioners that are out there providing bulk of medical care on day to day basis." Huffman says the state doesn't have nearly enough.
"Physician practices can only see so many patients in a day," he says. When patients can't meet with a primary care doctor, they come to the hospital.
"Fully 1/3 of people present in our ER do not have a primary care doctor. They come to the emergency room because they do not have any other access to primary medical care." Huffman says the hospital has had to adapt its staff.
"We've gone out and hired what are called hospitalists to admit and manage them while they're in the hospital to make sure they receive proper care."
But what happens once patients released is still a problem, he says, "finding a physician who can see them in timely manner."
Huffman says the key is to keep Mississippi's medical students home. Governor Bryant just announced the $10 million grant to expand the University of Mississippi's medical school. Huffman says he thinks that will make the state more attractive to students.